thinking about being an emerging poet in middle age

There was a famous observation I read somewhere (through a third person’s writing) that a poet is more like the captain in a painting of a ship than the actual captain of the ship. I’ve not found it in a quick google search, it may have been Emerson, I remember it as an American nineteenth century writer but can’t even remember where I read this now in recent years. But it may have been a painter or a philosopher as I think now that the comparison may have been to philosophers as sea captains, doing the bigger real task and the poet being in their small part in the painting.

I liked it when I learned it and do so now. I think of it for many reasons, thinking on my lot as, it seems, a poet, and others reactions and also after speaking to a friend who understood some of what I’ll say.

In a way it may be a bit like feeling/being a bit of a dilettante as a poet. I often feel that. I have a degree and an MA, and they are decent, even good, but generalist in our specialist world. They’re also not in literature. I tend to write from personal experience. I don’t like or want to upset people. But I get things powerfully. Its amazing it wasn’t better recognised and my path clearer, but I hid a lot.

But the thing that strikes me is poets powerfully get the small moments / part they do, clearly, quite completely, get something vivid about it and show it – its never all and in the gush must not kid ourselves with certainty and completeness. And doing this can be challenging to others.

I feel that what I say when I get things can seem to annoy others who feel much better qualified than me. It’s nice to know this may be part of being a poet – and its just for many people I guess who may be a bit poetic but who are unrecognised or not established they may find this means sometimes others dislike what they say or try to diminish them, maybe, in a way. I wonder if others have that experience?

I think sometimes putting things together can be aided by not being bogged down in lots of detail of what is known. As a young person I was painfully respectful in what I said. In finding and trying to show my voice its painful to seem anything else, and as a counsellor (I’m not talking about practicing as a counsellor). But, so often others don’t seem open to exploring thinking – whilst I always felt criticised for not doing so. When I start doing that it definitely annoys some, a doctor once asked me how I dared try to read some things, seemed angry, and didn’t get that the degree was all about trying to read things, learning to, and trying to say things about it – and in fact that not trying to say what I needed to explained any limitation then to success. But it is a balance, respect is needed. But it is strange to me how often trying to understand and show this can be so challenging.

But it’s reassuring this poet being in charge of this small part is recognised as in that quote (if I ever find it I’ll type it in). I guess my difficulty is how dismissed I have been a lot of the time, also distanced from myself by treatment so I seem not the person I am, and maybe also now learning of the lack of privilege of a blonde trans woman, that has taught me a lot, wherever I go with it (opened my eyes to privilege I had no idea of). But not being seen as a poet too.

I suppose some of that also rests in trying to make that clear. Publishing. Understanding it myself. Saying things like this. Understanding the validity of generalism amidst the specialist world whilst respecting specialism. Understanding the power of poetry and how powerful it can be to say things well (at least some of the time) and understanding my own process and how in clarifying things to myself this can be testing. Hence this post, for all these reasons. Is it poetics so much as about being a poet, being me, I don’t know. It does feel helpful.

I suppose I’ve often spoken of sharing process on this blog – and I suppose this is the same here, some don’t seem to like thoughts shared without being a clearly labelled and assessed product (I wonder more and more), lots of creative people might notice this? And maybe there are ways in which it’s sometimes reflected back at us as impolite to do so or flakey, or something we’re not allowed, but that’s not the world I’d thought I lived in, post Reformation and Enlightenment and educated to think. In our professional world is it possible to be an amateur, to explore for ourselves? We must be careful not to offend or be silly, or much else, but we’re human and have to try to learn?

Is this rubbish? Obvious to those not lost like me?

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